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Gloriana: The Virgin Queen

Words by Shon Faye

Harry is messaging me on Facebook chat and I’m crying. He hasn’t made cry—that would be unfair. But he’s talking about sex again. Everyone talks about sex all the time, Alex, Tom, Huw, Josh and everyone on Facebook and Twitter. Am I envious? I was never highly sexed or craving of it to the extent other boys were, or seemed to be. Now, I’m not a boy and I’ve been on mood stabilisers and anti-depressants for a year—they suppress the sex drive completely—I’m also on testosterone blockers and oestrogen: a form of castration. I’ve stopped watching porn and I’ve stopped masturbation. None of it was conscious—my libidinal energy was eroded by the cocktail of chemicals in my blood stream. False as these chemicals are, I need them to stay alive.

What then could I possibly have to envy? I envy the sense of freedom promiscuity requires. My male friends may not feel free, but when I look between us I see a huge gulf of bodily experience.

As much as I hate bemoaning it all, trans women are imprisoned by the body. Not our physical bodies but the body of expectation around us. “So who has sex with trans women?” A drunk girl, somewhat insensitively, asks me at the pub. “Looking for a gorgeous trans girlfriend”, says the dating bio of the guy who occasionally sends me pictures of his flaccid dick. It seems I don’t exist sexually. I am either erased by the myths that arise in the absence of a body like mine in men’s desires, or I am the unfortunate tenant inside the exotic body they want to claim. I am not my body.

That’s the thing about freedom. You don’t notice when you have it.

In a culture which constantly tells me I am inauthentic I long to be free of the need to be validated. I hate myself for having hardened so much that men find me intimidating or unapproachable. But I’d hate myself more for asking them to love me. I hate the fact my desire for sexual submission means taking the more exhausting role of being emotionally dominant.

It seems that to be free of my body I de-sexualise myself. The feminine untethered from the masculine is true power, I tell myself. Then I make out with a man I meet at the bus stop. Neither feels freeing. That’s the thing about freedom. You don’t notice when you have it. You only notice its absence when you don’t. So here I am, the slutty, vestal virgin. I am Gloriana: The Virgin Queen. OK time to stop crying and being grandiose. I’m partially free. Just like everyone else.

This essay originally appeared in Riposte #7 in a short essay section exploring the theme of Freedom.